Elsayed Solyman
Last updated: 6 September, 2012

Ordeal on board a small boat in Cairo

“Several of our babies have died, due to shortage in health care,” says a homeless fisherman who lives with his family on board a small boat in Cairo.

Fathi Ahmed Abdel Rahman, 36 years old, finds himself in difficult circumstances as he struggles to feed his wife and four small children.

On a tiny boat, the six members of the family have to adapt themselves to a harsh life, but their big dream remains intact – to own a small apartment.

Fathi explained that he came to Cairo from Upper Egypt 12 years ago. He married Mona Hussien Ali, and they started their life together on board this small boat. Mona gave birth to 8 babies, four of them have died due to health problems.

Mona, 25 years old, told us that sometimes she is obliged to work in houses nearby in order to share the burden with her husband. Their children can’t go to school – not now and not when they have grown up – as they need to help her get money for food.

“Education is important, but not in our case,” she clarified. Born and raised in a poor village in the Abu Teeg district in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut, Mona has been living an extremely impoverished life with her parents and seven siblings.

Fathi said, in a tone of sadness, that all he aspires to is to find a shelter for his family.

“My father was a seasonal farmer whose meager income hardly met our family’s needs. Hence I had no option but to migrate to Cairo, and live in these bad circumstances. I hope my children will not face the same fate.”

Fathi’s brother, Hussein, is living on another small boat nearby, both of them in the Nile in a small peninsula of eastern Cairo.

More than 15 million Egyptians live on less than $1 a day, according to a recent government study. It is estimated that almost three million children under the age of fourteen are engaged in work, with many remaining out of classrooms for long periods or permanently.

Poverty is a part of everyday life for many Egyptians. Still, Fathi never tried to contact any governmental officer to help him, as he knows in advance that whether he asks for help or not the result is the same – he will continue to face these problems.